The Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Christ & Confrontation

Spring 2018
W 1:30 - 3:20pm
Area II
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This seminar is an examination of the life and select writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “the one German theologian who,” German liberation theologian Dorothee Sölle affirmed, “will lead us into the third millennium.”  A pastor, theologian, staunch anti-Nazi insurgent, and founding member of the Confessing Church, Bonhoeffer’s life, thought, and death by execution at the Flossenbürg gallows distinguish him as one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.  In this course, students will explore the evolution of Bonhoeffer’s theological project and the fundamental themes – Christ, community, discipleship, the church, difference, and justice for the oppressed – of his major work, in conversation with 21st century moral issues like anti-Black racism, sexism, poverty, homo/transphobia, and xenophobia.  An investigation of the varied genres of Bonhoeffer’s theological and ethical legacies which emerge from a life that spanned two world wars; crises of class, modernity, and difference; and the death-dealing scourge of the Nazi regime, will propel consideration of the cost and the trajectory of responsible Christian faith and moral action for the contemporary church and in a world come of age.  

Background Expected: 


Course Requirements: 


Punctual attendance at all class sessions is required.  Please notify the professor in advance via email in the event of your absence from class.  Students who are habitually late and/or miss more than two classes are not eligible to receive an H in the class.


All written assignments are to be submitted via CANVAS by or before the DUE DATE.

If you foresee requesting a letter of recommendation from me for future graduate study, please be sure to save returned papers with comment.  All written assignments must use 12pt Times New Roman (font) with 1” margins

Basis of Evaluation: 

In-Class Discussion Starter Paper (30%) – Each student must present two (2) separate papers that critically reflect on the assigned readings for the week. This 4-5-page double-spaced paper is NOT a summary of the readings, but must:

  • Include a careful analysis of the reading material – what are the major themes that emerge? What are the sub-themes of the readings that are particularly intriguing? What holds the readings together and/or distinguishes them? (40%) 

  • Critique the major themes of the readings in relationship to class lecture and discussion – where do you find points of agreement and disagreement in the readings? (40%) 

  • Conclude with ONE critical question that the readings prompt for you and your work (20%)
Students will choose their presentation week on the first day of class.

**In-class discussion starter papers must be distributed to the entire class via email by 10am on the morning (Wednesday) of the assigned class.Due as assigned at the beginning of the semester.

Take-Home Timed Midterm Examination (10%) – A 5-7-page double-spaced paper on the theoethical dimensions of Bonhoeffer’s thought and its implications for the contemporary church. The paper must:

Discuss the major themes in Bonhoeffer text of choice 

Explicate Bonhoeffer’s development of major themes 

Appraise the text’s viability in relationship to a contemporary social dilemma 

Group Presentation (20%) – Each student will be assigned a working group at the beginning of the semester. Each group is charged with placing one major theme from the semester in conversation with a contemporary social problem. Groups must creatively convey the applied significance and constructive potential of Bonhoeffer’s theological and/or ethical vision for the current dilemma.

Final Paper (20%) – An 7-9 page double-spaced paper that explores any aspect/theme of Bonhoeffer’s theology in relation to a contemporary social issue. At least three (3) primary sources must be used.

Due May 7th


Regular and punctual attendance

Completion of assignments by due date

Accuracy and precision of scholarship (including use of inclusive language)

Clarity and precision of oral and written presentation

Depth of comprehension of reading material and in-class engagement


Grammar & Style